And right now, small-market Kansas City is thriving.
"I was heartened by the fact that in the Starbucks this morning there was just as many people wearing Royals gear as there was last fall," Manfred said. "The excitement in this city is just great."
The fact that the Royals, one of the league's smallest markets, can muster a payroll in the $113 million range suggests the industry is healthy.
"I inherited the game in great shape," Manfred said. "And whenever I think about the condition of the game I think about competitive balance. Whatever we sell, we sell competition. The success that Kansas City had last year and the great start they have this year … the fact that they have a strategy that is sustainable within our system says a lot about the health of the industry.
"I would be remiss if I didn't point out that it takes foresight and diligence to accomplish what [chairman] David Glass and [president] Dan Glass and [general manager] Dayton Moore have accomplished here. While I do believe we have a system where you can draft and develop and build a winner, it's still a tall order to accomplish that the way they have here.
"The 30,000-plus [in attendance per game] plus the [great] television ratings in this market set the kind of example that every small-market team can take as concrete evidence [it can succeed] and aspire to it."